SA Power Networks to conduct trial of combined solar and batteries.

SA Power Networks will deploy about 100 Tesla Energy and Samsung batteries in Salisbury in Australia’s largest trial of combined solar and energy storage in an established suburb.

The unique trial will get underway in June and will test the benefits of combining solar and battery storage to avoid the need to build additional network infrastructure to meet growth in local electricity demand in an existing residential area. The trial will be formally launched this afternoon at the Energy Networks 2016 conference being held in Adelaide.

SA Power Networks“In the next few years we will need to act to meet localised demand growth in Salisbury. We want to work with customers to avoid the need to invest in new poles and wires. Instead of building a new power line, we would like to see whether we can defer or avoid that by tapping into local solar PV generation and combining this with energy storage,” said Paul Roberts, Manager Stakeholder Relations.

“The trial will look at the customer and network benefits of teaming up energy management software provided by Reposit Power, with battery technology and solar PV. The Reposit software has the smarts to determine the best option for customers in utilising power being generated by their PV panels or stored in their battery,” he said.

“We believe we need about 100 customers in the area to take up the offering to enable us to defer this network investment. The savings from deferment and Demand Management Incentive Scheme funds will be used to provide significant incentives for customers to get involved in the trial and to invest in battery technology.”

A targeted group of customers in Salisbury will receive letters in the next few weeks inviting them to register their interest and confirm their eligibility to participate. In a once-only offer, eligible customers will receive significant financial assistance in purchasing batteries (and solar panels if required), and also are guaranteed a minimum $500 per annum in savings on their electricity bill.

Mr Roberts said the trial was an excellent example of SA Power Networks’ desire to broaden its regulated energy services to take advantage of emerging customer and network technology for the benefit of customers. “Combinations of solar PV, battery storage and grid connections are the future of energy provision.

With the right settings and approach they will provide benefits for customers and to us as managers of the network and also help contain long–term network costs for customers,” he said.

“We are excited about the future and the opportunities due to advancements in solar and storage technology. We think our distribution network will be a vital component in helping our customers and our State to derive the greatest benefit from investment in these technologies. The trial gives us an opportunity to explore the customer, technological and capability impacts on our regulated network business.”

Customers wanting to buy an entire system of 3kW of rooftop solar and the 6.4kWh battery storage package will pay just $6,150. If they already have solar and just need the battery, then the cost is just $3,600 – a vast discount on current prices.

Another option is for customers to buy a 3kW rooftop solar system for $2,550, and rent the battery for a $500 upfront bond and a $18.50 fortnight payment over three years. The battery will remain the property of SAPN.

There may be other costs associated with meters (if installing solar for first time), additional electrical works that may be required to support the installation of the system, and an ongoing monthly fee for the monitoring equipment if customers want to use it.

The customers will be guaranteed a minimum $500 saving on their electricity bill.

SAPN chose Tesla and Samsung batteries after an open tender, and SAPN decided they met their specifications. Both will be offering 6.4kWh systems that are currently available in Australia – considered to be the leading battery market in the world.

The trial will also use energy management software provided by Reposit Power, which will help determine the best option for customers in utilising power being generated by their PV panels or stored in their battery, and potentially for trading with the wholesale market at peak times.

The trial – and the buy-in by the network operator – is significant because it helps change the rhetoric about rooftop solar; particularly in a state which recently closed its last coal-fired generator and is leading Australia, indeed the world, in the integration of wind and solar resources.

Instead of being demonised in some quarters as a cost to consumers – courtesy of over-generous feed in tariffs, and despite some obvious network benefits – the combination of solar and storage is seen as a big benefit to individual and other consumers, due to savings on networks costs and wholesale markets.

Roberts says the combinations of solar PV, battery storage and grid connections are the “future of energy provision”. Indeed, studies suggest that up to $400 billion will be invested by customers over the next few decades in rooftop solar and battery storage.

But the trial also has broader implications, both for the design of new energy systems and for the uptake of solar and storage, and for the management of networks and the future of current business models, both for those networks and for the operators of centralised fossil fuel generators and the retailers.

One issue is around the ability of networks to access the “consumer” market and make offers to customers on solar and storage to help defray costs. A recent study by Victoria’s network operator Ausnet found that the benefits of rooftop solar and storage were about equal for consumers and networks.

Roberts said the trial in Salisbury – like the tender it has put out for Kangaroo Island, where a cable to the mainland could be replaced by localised storage and generation – is about management of the regulated network

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